NEW YORK: Small island nations that face potentially devastating storms and floods due to climate change urged the international community on Monday to aggressively limit carbon emissions to prevent extreme increases in global temperatures.
Leaders of the Alliance of Small Island States, a group of 42 island countries, said the rest of the world should agree to cut emissions at a UN meeting in Copenhagen in December to limit temperature increases to less than 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels, a goal set recently by industrialized nations.
Temperatures have already risen about 0.8 C from pre-industrial times.
"We see climate change as ... a threat to our survival and we have to take the necessary steps to protect our territories," said Tillman Thomas, prime minister of alliance-member Grenada.
Failure by rich countries to act would be tantamount to a kind of "benign genocide", Thomas said.
The small island nations of the alliance, which include the Maldives, Tuvalu and Papua New Guinea, are some of the most vulnerable countries to flooding from rising seas as ice melts from global warming. They are also among the least responsible for emissions blamed for warming the planet.
The G8 nations and a 17-nation group of the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitters, the Major Economies Forum, agreed in Italy months ago that global average temperatures should not be allowed to rise more than 2 C over pre-industrial times.
The alliance also urged that a new UN deal on climate include a comprehensive insurance program to address, for example, loss and damage to coastal hotels and other infrastructure from rising seas and hurricanes; and loss of coral reefs from ocean acidification related to global warming.